Jenks Schools are a Catalyst for City Growth
The City of Jenks is recognized as one of the most desirable places to live in Oklahoma, according to Jenks City Planner Robert Bell.
With a charming downtown, family entertainment and low crime rate, it is no surprise the population has boomed in the last 15 years.
Even so, Jenks Public Schools holds up a community standard met by few others.
When it comes to population change, Bell said, “I think the education quality of Jenks Public Schools is definitely one reason that the City of Jenks has become a highly desirable place to live.”
In 2000, the U.S. Census listed 9,511 people living in Jenks. By 2010, the population was posted as 16,924. The numbers have only grown with 1,059 new houses being constructed since the last census.
After mentioning the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, (the nation’s highest presidential honor for quality and organizational performance excellence), JPS received in 2005, Bell said he couldn’t begin to describe the high athletic and academic accomplishments the school produces.
“What that means is if your student attends Jenks Public Schools, they are receiving the highest level of quality education that will prepare them for the future,” he said.
Jenks Superintendent Stacey Butterfield has a modest approach between new Jenks residents and the school district.
“We recognize the benefits of all of us — the city of Jenks, the chamber and the school district working together. People are moving to the community not just for the school system but for the smaller community feel. We look at it as a partnership between all of us,” she said.
For 2015, Butterfield said there are three focuses district-wide: addressing growth, using technology and student health and wellness.
The growing student population has presented challenges and the community voted on Feb. 10 to pass a $120 million bond issue to accommodate the surplus of enrollees, with the addition of a new elementary school to be completed in 2016, additional classrooms at other schools, renovations, technology and more.
Butterfield said the students are now incorporating personal technology devices like tablets in learning through their One to One Instruction Initiative.
Grades 9-12 have already implemented the program and the district is working towards finding the best strategic approach and devices for the younger grades.
Why a focus on health and wellness?
“We recognize and know what the research says about health and wellness and the influence that has on student achievement,” Butterfield said. This includes the school nutrition, physical education and integrating action-based learning into the classroom.
Montana transplant Molly Murphy-Adams started her daughter at Jenks in the fourth grade five years ago. Her husband’s children were already Jenks “lifers,” and they never considered another school district.
“We love that the kids have the choice to pursue a huge variety of interests. The older kids were in sports. The youngest is in music and drama. Both types of extracurriculars are supported by the schools in terms of facilities and staff. It is also a safe school, and the high school is set in the small town of Jenks, which gives it a more relaxed feel,” she said.
Although Murphy-Adams doesn’t plan on living in Jenks forever, she said it is great for raising kids.
Meeting the needs of the growing population, Jenks offers much promise in the Riverwalk Crossing development with a $22 million investment into a high-tech golf facility, family friendly games, new restaurants and more to revitalize the once-popular destination.
Another family attraction is the Oklahoma Aquarium. If you are a resident of Jenks, you can receive half off the membership fee. Also, 2015 is a celebratory year at the aquarium as the long awaited funding for the sea turtle exhibit has arrived due to an allocation of Vision 2025 dollars.
But before the aquarium and the Riverwalk, Jenks’ downtown Main Street has been an antique hunter’s haven.
That is changing.
Though plenty of antique peddling continues, downtown Jenks is shaping into an ever-improving spot for boutique shopping, coffee, art pursuing, dining and bars.
In the last few years, a storefront vacancy has been a rare sight. Josh Driskall, Jenks Chamber of Commerce president, said, “Downtown Jenks continues to thrive as our existing merchants expand their businesses and maintain the charm of that area.”
Residents will also see more downtown development at the Village on Main. The area “will continue to rise from the ground as new construction is expected this year to accompany existing structures, including the First Oklahoma Bank headquarters,” Driskall said.
Tulsa World- By BRITT GREENWOOD World Correspondent